The right to self-determination is not given, it is taken

Catalan MonitorArticles

As with all other human rights, self-determination of the people is inserted in the human being. Without its recognition and possibility, without any kind of obstruction to exert it, there is no way to respect it. Human rights, and therefore also the right to self-determination, guarantee and are based on the dignity, identity, freedom…of each person and the community he or she belongs to, as it is well expressed in Article 29 of the Declaration of Human Rights.

It is necessary to remind ourselves of these fundamental principles, when the Catalan people have exerted their right to self-determination. At least to undo the misunderstandings and propaganda that pretend to distort the decision the Catalan people have decided to take.

Within the Spanish State, the governmental powers and their satellites tirelessly repeat that not only the Catalan people have no right to self-determination, but even to consider putting it into practice is a crime, responding to a conduct opposed to the current legislation, emanating from the Spanish Constitution. Such a position demonstrates that those who stand by this have not understood what it is about, failing to accept what the right to self-determination means. Firstly, they have not understood that the right to self-determination of the people is a fundamental right, and the self-determination of a people, the subject of this right, is not given by a third party but by the people in virtue of the right they have to self-determine themselves as such. Secondly, to exert this right is an act of democracy which no law can obstruct, if the people’s aim is to behave democratically.  Therefore, to prohibit the people’s right to self-determination, the Catalan people in this case, is a crime according to universal democratic canons.

On the other hand, the Catalan Parliament and the government of the Generalitat, with the laws they have created to facilitate the referendum on self-determination of the Catalan people, have not given any right. They have simply opened the doors to a right which, as with all other rights, is not given but is taken by those who are its real protagonists. In other words, the Catalan public authorities limit themselves to echo the people’s claim, so many times expressed in the millions of voices arising from the manifestations of the past years, to want to vote for the survival of the Catalan nation, and legislate to guarantee that the choice the Catalan people make with respect to their future will be totally free.

If we begin by considering the approaches that I have just synthesized, we will see that the current discussion concerning the legality and legitimacy of what is happening in Catalunya is useless and sterile, when its citizens have been called to vote in the referendum on self-determination. The root of the question goes beyond what the Spanish laws dictate. Enforcing these laws even on the streets, with the support of the courts and the Police armed forces, is to situate the right to self-determination in the wrong place. Or even worse, it demonstrates that the democratic culture has not yet been established in the existing Spanish powers, and the ignorance of a large part of the Spanish population concerning the issues of the Catalan people continues to generate hate and contempt.

In this case, there appears the peremptory necessity to reiterate the prevalence of international norms concerning state laws. Thanks to these norms many people, and not only those who found themselves in colonized regions, have been able to self-determine, despite the state laws that claimed the contrary. For example, and so as not to leave the boundaries of Europe, and to refer only to recent cases, the Czechs, Slovakians, Lithuanians, Latvians, Estonians, Slovenians, Croatians…

Aureli Argemí

President Emeritus of  the CIEMEN and President of the PDD